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Attorney-General discusses return of Mamdouh Habib; and application of proceeds of crime legislation to any money he might receive for media interviews.



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ATTORNEY-GENERAL THE HON PHILIP RUDDOCK MP

Sydney Radio 2UE Drive with Steve Price __________________________________________________________________

Transcript - Interview with Attorney General Philip Ruddock Announcer: Steve Price Interviewee: Philip Ruddock Date: 28/01/05 Time: 5.10pm.

Subject: Mamdouh Habib return to Australia

PRICE: Thanks for your time again Attorney General. RUDDOCK: Pleasure. PRICE: You told me yesterday it’d be a matter of days not weeks… RUDDOCK: I think I said weeks not months. PRICE: Should have taken the ‘s’ off the days. RUDDOCK: Yeah well, I mean I wasn’t in a position to be able to give timing or logistics and that was the bottom line. PRICE: I understand that. He’s back in the country? RUDDOCK: He is. PRICE: Are you now involved in what happens to him once he clears customs at Sydney?

RUDDOCK:

Well I mean we’ve made it clear all along that he’d be reunited with his family and they’ve made arrangements to spend time with him at what I’m told is an undisclosed destination of their choosing. He’s not in custody, he remains at liberty and the exact whereabouts of him is a matter for his family. But we’ve made it clear that the laws of Australia apply to him as they do to anybody else. He is a person of security concern, I made that clear to you yesterday and that remains the case and appropriate agencies respond to that and they’re not matters about which I can give details.

PRICE:

He travelled back in an aircraft that you organised to have chartered?

RUDDOCK:

Yes.

PRICE:

And that landed at Sydney just after 3.30 and so I presume then he simply clears customs like anybody else would albeit that he was at the corporate facility there and goes on his way.

RUDDOCK:

Yeah he travelled on board a chartered flight, he was accompanied by his American lawyer, given the nature of claims that have been made from time to time we felt it desirable to have somebody there that he respected and who would be in a sense unbiased in relation to those matters, an official from my department, a consular official, a medical practitioner and security personnel. He consented to board the flight, and I am told that it was uneventful, he slept, he had conversation with people, and he wasn’t shackled in any way, and it was an uneventful return.

PRICE:

Where it did it travel from, from Cuba to where?

RUDDOCK:

To Tahiti.

PRICE:

So did it comply with that request from the Americans that it not travel through American airspace?

RUDDOCK:

Yeah.

PRICE:

So it would have gone, oh you and I don’t need to worry about that, but it went from Cuba it made its way to Tahiti and Tahiti to Australia?

RUDDOCK:

It would have crossed somewhere through Central America and it landed in Tahiti for refuelling and come straight on.

PRICE:

Now if Mr Habib appears now in a paid for media interview, I don’t want to go back through the complicated explanation about this, is there anything you can stop that happening now?

RUDDOCK:

No. We can’t stop him being interviewed. The only issue we can deal with is proceeds of crime and that’s a matter on which I’m taking advice.

PRICE:

Would you be prepared to seek an injunction stopping that interview going to air if you suspected that he was being paid for it?

RUDDOCK:

Well I can’t.

PRICE:

So it would go to air and you would just have to deal with it after it had gone to air?

RUDDOCK:

You recover the monies that are paid. I mean that’s what the nature of proceeds of crime are about. I didn’t mention it yesterday but there were specific amendments to the law to extend the proceeds of crime provisions to people who’d been detained at Guantanamo Bay.

PRICE:

So that is covering him?

RUDDOCK:

Well no I’m not giving a legal opinion, and I don’t want to offer advice…

PRICE:

Well there’s only been two Australians there so presumably it covers him and Hicks.

RUDDOCK:

Yeah but the point I’m making is that the broader question about whether you can prove that these are proceeds of crime it’s not just a question of him being detained at Guantanamo Bay, it was extended so that it could cover people who were at Guantanamo Bay.

PRICE:

All right I appreciate your time, thank you at such short notice.

RUDDOCK:

Nice to talk to you Steve.

(Ends)